Deep Transitions: Emergence, Acceleration, Stabilization and Directionality



Industrial society has not only led to high levels of wealth and welfare in the Western world, but also to increasing global ecological degradation and social inequality. The socio-technical systems that underlay contemporary societies have substantially contributed to these outcomes. This paper proposes that these socio-technical systems are an expression of a limited number of meta-rules that, for the past 250 years, have driven innovation and hence system evolution in a particular direction, thereby constituting the First Deep Transition. Meeting the cumulative social and ecological consequences of the overall direction of the First Deep Transition would require a radical change, not only in socio-technical systems but also in the meta-rules driving their evolution – the Second Deep Transition. This paper develops a new theoretical framework that aims to explain the emergence, acceleration, stabilization and directionality of Deep Transitions. It does so through the synthesis of two literatures that have attempted to explain large-scale and long-term socio-technical change: the Multi-level Perspective (MLP) on socio-technical transitions, and Techno-economic Paradigm (TEP) framework.